Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Peggy Noonan Accuses the Presidents Bush

...of both being "great wasters of political inheritance." She does have some evidence.

Discussions - 29 Comments

She is in rare form on this piece. I agree with every word. I see no reason to view this Presidency as "ours" any longer...and the Administration thinks we are the dumb ones.

Conservatism deserves so much more than this. We have to stop compromising and get down to the hard work of rebuilding our movement...period.

I'm not sure we have a complete sense for the real and lasting damage that's being done here. :-(


You beat me to a post about this column. For a long time, I've been resisting one of the stock complaints about GWB--that his center of gravity lies with the business wing of the Republican Party. His current behavior, above all the way in which he's defending the Great (immigration) Compromise, makes that complaint almost impossible to counter.

Lasting damage? Say more, Don. My instinct is to keep things in perspective. 1) The bill, even if highly amended, is unlikely to pass. 2) The divide b/t the conservative base and the conservative business elites on immigration was already there. 3) A very similar divide already exists on the social issues, which is why a Guiliani candidacy is such a divisive prospect. 4) W. is not responsible for the luke-warm field of candidates we currently have. 5) W. is gone a year and half from now. 6) Minds were essentially made up about Iraq three to four years ago, and the rhetorical and strategic failures of W. took their biggest toll then. 7) All this "moderate" tacking by the Bushies, on foreign policy (Iran, NK, Palestinians) on immigration, etc., gives the BDS-deranged left that much less fuel for their insanity. That insanity frankly threatens the social fabric of our nation, and so in a very weird way it's healthy for the nation and for conservatives for there to be greater distance b/t Bush and conservatives right now.

If the bill were to pass, lasting damage. If Bush were to nominate another Miers, lasting damage. That Bush has openly given conservatives the middle-finger a few times of late, sad, not really that important or surprising. Our expectations of the man are mighty low at this point, but let's not stain ourselves with a spurned-lover variant of Bush-hatred. Not that Don advocates that...

Put another way, both men squandered trust instead of building it. That's a fair point. But I think I lean toward Carl's argument about the unattractiveness in exhibiting the jilted-lover syndrome. Conservatives really need to ask themselves if their expectations haven't been too high. I have never understood the surprise exhibited by some conservatives that W is not the knight in shining armor they hoped for after Clinton. I know I'm in a tiny minority here, but I was most shocked by it during the Miers debacle. What did you think you were going to get out of him? I always thought he would nominate people like that. I thought we were lucky to get Roberts and that it was nice to get Alito--but I think the jury is out on whether he was worth all the fuss. But I don't want to re-hash that old argument.

Still, that Bush is no savior for the Conservative movement should have been obvious in the 2000 primaries. He is what he is and what he is--is, arguably, still a darn sight better than many of the alternatives that were out there at the time. And I'm still awful glad that we had him instead of Gore. As much as all of us would love to have a Reaganesque statesman to sweep in and seal a fairy-tale ending for conservative politics, isn't it a bit silly to pin our hopes on such a thing? It's also rather lazy. Look around at the country and tell me why you think it would elect a so-called "real conservative"--however you want to define it. I'm not saying it can't or it won't, I'm just saying that it is far from obvious to me why anyone would think that such a thing would happen if only we could find the right guy. That's like saying marriage would be easy if only you could find the right spouse (and doesn't that usually mean finding someone who will do everything your way?). I think we've made some gains in public opinion in recent years--but we've also taken some major hits and not all of them can be laid on the door-step of GWB. There's an awful lot of spurned GOP ex-congressmen and senators who can attest to that.

None of this is to say that the Bush boys don't deserve to be called on the carpet for squandering trust. They do. But those who so trusted them need, themselves, to do an awful lot of soul-searching before so trusting again. Maybe it's not a good idea to have that kind of blind trust. Maybe what we need to do--in the words of the Gipper--is trust, but verify?! And I would add to that, diversify your investments of trust. You can't expect to sweep to victory on the back of a president. We need to win first on the block, in the schools, on the city councils, in the states, and in Congress. In short, we need to do a better job of shaping public opinion and it is not the job--simply--of the president to do this.

The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible.

From the moment that George Herbert Walker Bush accepted the nomination of his Party in 1988, when he validated the Liberal criticism of the Reagan years as "a decade of greed," by saying that he wanted "a kinder, gentler America," from that moment on, he and his son have seemed hell-bent on overturning the Reagan, and later, the Gingrich revolution. Reagan and Gingrich have led the Party to victories and majority status, not just up on Capitol Hill, but throughout the assemblies of the several states. But the men of the Bush family have led us to defeat, first in '92, then the penultimate drama in '06, which was but the foresip of the bitter dregs of defeat we shall know in early November, 2008.

The Rockefeller Republican has oft promised competence in governance, they style themselves the Dukakises of the GOP, as it were. But they have demonstrated themselves to be utterly inept, not just in domestic affairs, but in those foreign as well.

I saw what was coming three and a half years ago. And I made my views known to the leadership of the GOP, not just in the Keystone State, but in Washington as well. I called attention to the prominence of Card, to the pernicious influence of him, and men like him. I didn't just oppose Meirs for the Supreme Court, I insisted she be dismissed from the White House staff, for I accurately saw that she was as miscast for White House Counsel as she was for the Supreme Court of the United States. My warnings fell on deaf ears. Most Conservatives were simply gratified that they dodged the bullet of her on the high court, and were emotionally unwilling to continue the battle concerning staff and personnel selections of this President.

But that's just a single example. My critique was wide-ranging, and extended over foreign policy as well as the timing of his second term domestic agenda. For instance, GW began his second term focusing on Social Security reform. Whereas he should have begun focusing on passing a GENUINE Energy reform, establishing the Energy infrastructure that America will need well into this century. Passage of a REAL Energy bill would have resulted in a marked Dow Jones surge. Which he then would have capitalized on by making permanent his first term tax cuts. Which would have led to an intensification of that market surge, WHICH WOULD HAVE CREATED A FAVOURABLE ENVIORMENT for him to go to the nation and speak of privatizing Social Security accounts. But the genius Rove screwed up the order of his second term domestic agenda, which led months later to the Wall Street Journal pronouncing Bush's second term agenda "a bust."

This second term has been an absolute nightmare for the GOP, but far more importantly, for the country at large. And the results, the consequences of that disaster HAVE YET to make themselves fully known to the American people. And when that disaster fully registers, our Party will reap a whirlwind of discontent and bitterness.

The Chinese are beginning a SIGNIFICANT military buildup.

The Iranians are going to be allowed to go nuclear, {we know that because Bush is already erecting missile defense batteries in Southeastern Europe, why would he be doing that if he fully intended to stop Iran going nuke...}.

Iran going nuclear will AT THE VERY LEAST start a cascade effect throughout the region, as every Mideast despotic regime begins their own Manhattan Project.

The domestic entitlement programs that Bush added to, instead of eliminating, will begin an erosion of the American exchequer that will place lawmakers in the difficult position of choosing between a burgeoning American welfare state, or the massive air, military and naval buildup which will be called for to make provision against the Chinese buildup, and provision against the darkening scene in the Mideast.

Cast your mind a decade hence, when China is perfecting her armed forces, doing so upon the proceeds flowing from the trade imbalance between our countries, {realize that China's buildup is made possible by that trade imbalance, it's WE, the USA that's PAYING for this buildup...}, meanwhile America is emulating Europe's failed social system by erecting a similar welfare state.

The Bush White House needs to understand that their legacy is Iraq and Iran. They have two tasks, and only these two tasks should concern them:

1} Win the campaign in Iraq; and

2} Stop Tehran's Manhattan Project once and for all, repeat, ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Accomplish those two tasks, and this Presidency will receive the meed of approval of history. Fail in any one of those two tasks, and this Presidency will be recalled as America's Chamberlain.

It's really that simple.

It's not complicated as some might have you believe, it's really that simple.

Julie and are both superb representatives of this center-center-right blog. A bit lukewarm, willing to settle for less, pragmatic rather than energized. I think Bush was the perfect man for both of you.

For the rest of us hard-core, fire-breathing, oh-so-paleo conservatives, the best that can be said was that he was better than Gore and Kerry...and not by much. He has even managed to muck up his "accomplishments" (i.e., the war on terror), and about the only thing I'm grateful for is the "Do Not Call" registry.

Actually, we might be better off as a movement had Kerry been elected. Really.

Well, maybe not...I was forgetting Roberts and Alito (although he had to have his feet held to the fire on that one). I want to wait and see how they make out, but I can't even imagine who Kerry would have nominated. So, yea...but Bush turns out to be pretty much like his daddy -- trigger-happy and politically tone-deaf. We deserved much more...and I seriously doubt sentiments like Julie's or Carl's will get us where we need to be.

dain, I'm not willing to settle for less. In fact, I think it's probably true that in the end I want more. I just think it would be smart to set ourselves on a track where we might actually win long-term (as opposed to fleeting) gains. I think shaping public opinion is at least as important as electing the "right guy." And I think that the consequences to the country in an election, are more important than the immediate consequences to our movement. If you really think that Kerry would have been preferable to Bush then I have no words for you and I cannot be insulted by anything you want to say about me. People said that about the Clinton years too. It was bunk then and it's still bunk now. don't think it took a Jimmy Carter to get people ready for the Reagan Revolution? That's all I meant...of course a Kerry Presidency would have been a disaster, but instead we had eight so-so years and now maybe eight or more in the wilderness. Can you really say which would have been preferable?

Carl Scott wrote: " Lasting damage? Say more, Don.

My sense of this is somewhat beyond my ability to articulate it. The damage I allude to is not so much the effects of the bill upon passage (which I think is more likely than you, apparently). Nor is the damage directly related to Republican or Conservative politics. Somewhere deep in my heart and mind I have a sense that this is one more big step towards a committed belief that the entrenched government really has no concern for the population, and a growing sense that, sadly, there's probably not much we can do about it.

Unless the voters of this country really coalesce around some common theme that forms a super-majority, I fear the entrenched bureaucracy will simply grow more entrenched. In other words, the U.S. Government is becoming more and more like the European Union in its disdain for those it supposedly "serves."

My cynicism appears to have no off switch.

We need to understand that the Bush Presidency leaves the Republican Party with a stark, sobering choice. We can either be the prosecutor, or we can be the accused.

We can either stand alongside this administration, in which case we'll be in the dock and the Democrats will bring in the indictment that will prove damning. Or we can assume the position of the prosecutor, and demonstrate to the American people the many ways in which this administration has broken faith with Conservatism and the Republican Party platform.

Szarkozy has provided an example of how a successful candidate can run against his own party, as well as the party of his opponents. And that's what we're going to have to do.

And following that logic, what, exactly, did 8 years of Clinton do to improve the world for conservatives, dain? I would rather have had 4 more years of Ford than the 4 we had of the disastrous Carter presidency--even if you can make some crazy argument that Carter set the stage for Reagan. Talk about lasting damage . . . how much of Carter's mess are we STILL cleaning up? How much more might Reagan have accomplished if he were not dealing with the mess created by Carter? Keep talking like that and you will get to clean up after another Clinton.

Clinton's presidency was simply a waste of space. I'm not sure he did much damage, other than ignore the rise of Jihadistan. He rode the digital wave of economic growth, and dallied with his intern. Indeed, I think the GOP did more damage to itself by obsessing about the man (whom I loathed, truth be told, but also recognized as an adolescent in the Oval Office).

Carter did a lot of damage to foreign policy, and accelerated the economic near-depression of the late 1970s and early 80s. Yet, and this is important, he was so very lame and awful that people turned to Reagan's upbeat (and rather traditional) narrative about America. Also, people were ready for tough talk about the Cold War. I'm not sure the people would have embraced Reagan except for the craziness of the late 1970s.

Now, what if we had had a little better time of it under Ford? We would have gained a bit over a Carter Presidency (probably not much), and then we would probably have elected some moderate or some Democrat in 1980. No, I think Jimmy Carter was the best thing that has happened to conservatives other than Reagan himself.

Actually, Julie, I think dain has a point ... and it's a sobering one. This country is not essentially conservative. It is moderately so, but driven mostly by their selfish desires rather than any sense of the collective good.

For instance, I doubt very seriously that Reagan could have defeated Clinton in 1996, even if Reagan hit the stage fresh and new. Reagan's "conservatism" would not have mapped to the electorate's selfish desires at that time. He won in 1980 because he offered an alternative to Carter. Hell, just about anyone could have beat Carter in 1980.

Back when the Democrats took control of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections, I said on this forum that it was a permanent majority. There is no way that the Republicans, carrying a conservative message of self reliance and necessary sacrifice for the common good, can win. The only conceivable way the Republicans can regain the majority is in the face of a serious national security threat where the Democrats offer an alternative that directly threatens the individual voter's selfish interests. Today's "War on Terror" is not -- repeat, not seen as a serious threat on the personal level by the majority of the voting public. If it was, no current Democrat would pose a serious threat to win in 2008. As it is, it's not only possible a D will take the White House in 2008, it's likely.

This country is not essentially conservative. It is moderately so, but driven mostly by their selfish desires rather than any sense of the collective good.

I think you are right about that, Don. But I think that saying that is no more than saying that this country is composed of ordinary human beings. No human being is born essentially conservative in the sense you mean it--at least not without first having to think about it. The school of hard knocks is certainly one way of forcing that kind of thinking. Sometimes it works. But there are many other ways that ought to explored before you conclude that we need a disaster to awaken us. The trouble with the school of hard knocks is that sometimes you don't graduate. You seem to be saying that you wish something very awful upon the American people so that they will wake up and smell the coffee. That is just wrong on so many levels. We are an amazingly resilient people and it may be true that great things have been brought forth here in the face of adversity. Still, you don't choose the adversity.

Besides, if you are totally right and all we need is a good wake up call, tell me why the Clinton presidency and 9/11 don't qualify. Just exactly how awful it be? Alternatively these things are not what we're missing. Apparently we need something besides negative motivations to re-energize conservatives--something like more persuasion of our fellow citizens.

Julie, you may have missed a certain irony of history. Before you can have a Reagan, you have to walk through the valley of the shadow with a Carter. Before a Churchill, there must be a Chamberlain. You can't get the one without the other.

Countries do not embrace a Churchill, a Reagan, without events forcing them to do so. It would be better for all involved of course, to avoid a Baldwin, a Chamberlain, a Carter, but democracies listen to those that promise them easy, comfortable ways out of looming nightmares. The very steel that provides strength for a Churchill, a Reagan, repels democratic electorates before the storm is nigh. The storm must be literally upon them before they will rouse themselves enough to heed the warnings of a Churchill, to accept the hard won common sense of a Reagan.

Both Churchill and Reagan understood that. They knew, far more than us, that it was their very virtues that made them unattractive to voters. But they also knew that those very essentials made them more than equal to the enormous challenges they would surely face. And both men too, felt the hand of the Almighty upon them, readying them for trials beyond the ability of ordinary men to shoulder.

My point is that you would have preferred four more years of Ford, well, if that is the case, then you never would have experienced the triumph that Reagan would deliver. Reagan, as your colleague Steve Hayward well describes, was truly OUTSIDE the establishment. And his prescriptions for the maladies that beset this country, BOTH foreign and domestic, were precisely those deemed foolish by that establishment. Ford was very much within the establishment. Which was why he was chosen by the Democrats, and forced on Nixon. They knew well his measure. And they accurately foresaw that he would blow it when pressured in a national election, as his pathetic debate performance proved.

The Democrats knew Ford, and knew him to be weak. And they knew him well. Another four years of Ford would have surely yielded to a Democrat victory in 1980. And thus that fateful year may very well have seen the inauguration of Edward Kennedy, instead of Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan HAD TO WIN by 1980, for otherwise, age would have surely barred him from serious consideration. 1980 was his last chance, and the last chance for this country too. And if Reagan wasn't sworn in, in January, 1981, then there wouldn't have been that powerful triumvirate of Wojtyla, Thatcher and Reagan. Each of those three people HAD TO BE IN POWER for our Cold War victory to have occurred in the manner that it did. They were truly irreplaceable.

So be careful what you wish for Julie, for you never the twists and turns that fate has in store for you, and for us all.

Dan (who are you?) and Don in AZ are tremendously compelling. On the substance of Peggy's column, I associate myself with Joe on the oligarchical bias of the Bush regency.

Clinton did a pantload of damage. To not recognize this is ridiculous.

And, yes, the War on Terror does not make it personal for most of America and I do not want it to ever be that way, no matter how better the outcome of the WOT may be if it were so.

Bush seems to have made the immigration bill personal for himself. That it looks unwieldy and unenforceable, never mind people not liking the provisions, does not seem to be a problem for Bush at all. Does the Bush administration think that since they can manage the massive and contradictory tax code (wait, ordinary folk are clobbered by that all the time) the current immigration system (how far are they backlogged now?) or any of the other bureaucratic nightmares that are our government, that they manage this, too?

American discontent is incredible, given that for the average family, everything is really pretty good. The sense that government is inept, that both Bush and Congress are inept (have you seen their approval numbers?) leaves everyone uneasy and a bit frightened at the implications. Maybe we have unreasonable high expectations, but given the promises and assurances of politicians, is it any wonder? Maybe our government is too much, too big, and no one can handle it.

So Bush looks embattled and defensive and going on the attack like this is just so painful for the country, and it does echo the Meirs appointment in that it is an attack on his personal judgment. If you want to support your president and I do, you look at this and with such discomfort and distaste and do....what? I hope the time is ripe for Dan's hero of the hour.

Boy, this turned out to be a depressing thread. I'm not as pessimistic as Dan or Don...I think what we lack is media savvy. Democrats tend to promote the raw self-interest of their mascot groups, and they have a great spin machine to do that. The GOP also has a mascot group, big business, that it panders to, and other groups that it pays lip service to (e.g., the Christian Right). Our "spin" or "framing" of the issues has been rather poor of late (blame the Bushies, in my opinion), but we aren't finished by a long way. I think people are basically conservative on bedrock issues (like immigration, energy independence, family life, and so on), but you have to make it DEAD clear why liberal governance threatens these things. Reagan was masterful at it, but not many since.

But I could easily become as pessimistic as some. It brings to mind one of my favorite poems by Robinson Jeffers:

Shine, Perishing Republic
"While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it
stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the
thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there
are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught -- they say --
God, when he walked on earth.

Julie: "But I think that saying that is no more than saying that this country is composed of ordinary human beings."

Me: Sure, everyone is inherently selfish. I see that point. But that inclination to selfishness is not sovereign. People are capable of surrending that impulse and acting in a sacrificial manner. My point is that more and more people are unwilling to do that. Evidence of this is all around us, not just in the voting booth.

Julie: "No human being is born essentially conservative in the sense you mean it--at least not without first having to think about it."

Me: Rarely do people think anymore, Julie. The world is driven more and more by feelings. Sure, there are still some who reason things out, but it is a decreasing number. Surely not a majority of the voters. That does not mean people like you and schools like Ashbrook should not maintain the fight. But it does mean that fewer and fewer people are willing to listen and, sadly, capable of understanding.

Julie: You seem to be saying that you wish something very awful upon the American people so that they will wake up and smell the coffee.

Me: Be careful. Just because I observe X does not mean I wish for X. My point was that the voting public ... or, I should have been more precise, the middle 10% to 15% of the voting public ... are so immersed in their inward gazes that only something "very awful" (as you put it) is capable of stirring them. Further, absent something "very awful," those voters will grow increasingly vulnerable to appeals to their selfish interests ... a tactic liberals have perfected.

Julie: "Besides, if you are totally right and all we need is a good wake up call, tell me why the Clinton presidency and 9/11 don't qualify."

Me: Simple. They've forgotten all about it. As a stimulant to feelings, 9/11 has faded from their minds. Or, worse, it has morphed into a kind of syrupy sentimentality best addressed by those more inclined towards syrupy sentimentality. As for Clinton, I would wager his Presidency is not viewed as something "bad" at all by most Americans. Were he capable of running in 2000, he would have handily won. Were he capable of running in 2008, he'd probably win. People remember the 1990's as a time when things felt better. A plausible promise to return to that would resonate.

Julie: "Apparently we need something besides negative motivations to re-energize conservatives--something like more persuasion of our fellow citizens."

Me: Ideally, yes. I would love to think my fellow citizens are receptive to persuasion. They are, but not at the rational, conversational level. Today they -- and again, I'm mostly referring to the middle 10% to 15% who decide elections -- are receptive to appeals to feelings. And without going too far off track, the chief feeling most people are struggling to deal with is a sense of guilt. (They don't recognize it as such, but that's what they're struggling with.) And liberals, well acquainted with guilt management, know what buttons to push. Hence Al Gore can say that global warming is the most important moral issue of our times, and we see if not wild applause, general nods of agreement.

Look ... I understand your points. And perhaps I am too cynical. But I've engaged seemingly smart people in conversations for a long time now where I logically lead them into a corner. They will admit they're in the corner. Yet they will say it doesn't matter because their preferred position "feels right."

If you're never read C. S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man," you ought to. Written back in the 1940's, it predicted with uncanny accuracy the position we're in right now.

A point from my previous post I should have stated more clearly: there is a truly conservative voting bloc in this country. But it can be counted on to deliver no more than 35% or so. There is a corresponding liberal voting bloc. The only way Republicans can gain a majority (or Democrats, for that matter) is to appeal to and win the middle bloc of voters. The elusive "swing voter;" the prideful "independent" voter; the voting bloc creative people look to coin a phrase for each election: "Reagan Democrats," or "Soccer Moms."

Those are the people who are driven chiefly by feelings. Those are the people that people who pay scant attention to the specifics of the news. Those are the people conservatives need to reach and appeal to. They do not respond to direct logic; their attention span is insufficient to get past establishment of the first premise. They do respond to indirect appeals to self. Clinton was the master of this. What was a contributing factor to Gore's loss in 2000? Because he sighed excessively in the debate! People responded emotionally, not with direct thought.

Conservatives can not retake this country without winning that middle bloc. And increasingly they can't take that middle bloc because those people don't think, they feel. 9/11 made them feel, and the feeling was pain. They responded with their votes in 2002 and 2004. The pain of 9/11 receded and was replaced by a different feeling: uneasiness about the war in Iraq, fueled by non-stop negativity in the press. Faced with a new feeling demanding attention, voters responded in 2006.

I'm breaking no new ground here. I'm simply stating what is obvious: American politics is all about appealing to the middle. The middle grows increasingly receptive to appeals to their feelings. Republicans are not good at this, Democrats are. Hence my pessimism.

Quick points because I can't digest all of this right now: Dain is right that we lack media savvy. I think we probably agree more about that than we agree about anything else.

Don in AZ: thank you very much for your very thoughtful responses to my posts. As you understand me, so I understand you. And I sympathize with you more than you know. I alternate between the two poles depending on mood and events but I try to resist . . . but you should be careful too. I have made it a deliberate habit to avoid the pole where you sit because that's where my natural tendency wants to take me. If I don't resist it, I will lapse into useless pessimism. Neither do I want to be a Pollyanna . . . but I don't think there's any real danger of my that. Very often I am arguing against myself as much as I am arguing against you!

Also, I do try to avoid having contempt for the American people. Sometimes we deserve contempt for our laziness, etc. But I still believe that the American people have a solid core that can be activated by the right conditions and the right appeals to their nascent and learned sense of justice.

If the middle grows increasingly susceptible to appeals to emotion, Don, perhaps the emotion we should appeal to is shame. Shame at not thinking as rationally as they should. Of course, no one likes to feel shame. But everyone wants to think of themselves as smart.

It's more than "media savvy."

Before you acquire a certain "savvy" about the media, you first have to appreciate the role of media, the importance of properly and powerfully communicating your message.

This Bush administration lacks even that foundation necessary for the acquisition of "savvy." He is like his old man, who when queried what he was reading, replied, "Oh yea, the vision thing." This administration positively scorns the whole idea of communicating, of persuading, of swaying, of instructing. Which is PART of the reason why his numbers have plummeted.

But it's far more than simply massaging of message.

IT'S THE SUBSTANCE of his policies.

His capitulation on Kyoto.

His promise to sign the flawed Law of the Sea Treaty.

It's his stealthy embrace of the recommendations of Baker's Iraq Study Group, even though he earlier shared in the criticism of their recommendations.

It's his serial incompetence when it comes to North Korea.

It's his personnel selections.

It's "Brownie, you're doing a great job." I don't care how much media savvy you've got, you can't have someone out there saying that "Brownie" is doing a swell job, when the entire nation is livid by the incompetence on display.

We can't delude ourselves.

This second term has been a flat-out nightmare, and for reasons that rise far above simply managing of message.

As for the pessimism that Dain remarked upon, I'm pessimistic about this administration, and about the Bush family. But not about the Conservative movement.

We have the answers for what ails America.

We have the answers for America's foreign policy challenges.

Recall the example I provided, of Szarkozy. He was in the same party as Chirac, who was enormously unpopular. But Szarkozy went on to win nonetheless. So it can be done.

There's just one thing to be mindful of though, it can't be done if all you have to offer is more of the same. To be successful, there must be a CLEAR, absolutely crystal clear distinction.

The entire nation is seething with a raw anger at this Presidency. And it's only going to grow. And the people most angry with him are Conservatives, who he used, then mocked, then scorned, then derided.

What he's done is absolutely disgraceful and despicable. And that's a fact. This was the guy who promised to "restore honour and dignity to the White House," then goes out there and throws a farewell dinner for Kofi Anan, who is up to his neck in the greatest financial scandal in human history. That's just a single example, apparently a small thing. But it's become emblematic of the way this President conducts himself, conducts his affairs.

Bush has become a nightmare, what else is there to say....

Dan, here's what else there is to say: 1) your "nightmare" consists of REAL problems and failings, of the sort that a non-villainous leader can bring about 2) the left's "nightmare" consists of utter fantasies, in which Bush has been a villain from day one. Let us choose our words carefully in our rightful anger, so that we won't lend their derangement an iota of support.

Stupidity, cronyism and incompetence can rise to such a level where it becomes INDISTINGUISHABLE from villainy.

Chamberlain was not a villain, but nonetheless the impact of his policies were villainous to millions of people, millions of households, millions of families. And nothing short of ruinous for his country.

Bush's motives are meaningless to me. He's a disaster; he has to be stopped; and all of the damage he's done to the country and the fabric of the party has to be extirpated. A good chunk of his Presidency has to be explicitly repudiated by the party, so as the anger that the nation has for him will not long flow over towards the Grand Old Party, which his policies are spelling the doom of.

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